Dr. Edward Taub, chief researcher of Silver Spring's Institute for Behavorial Research, was convicted yesterday of cruelty to animals for failing to provide veterinary care for six monkeys at his research laboratory.
District Court Judge Stanley Klavan fined Taub a total of $3,015 -- $500 for each of six counts of animal cruelty and $15 in court costs -- to end a trial that had attracted national attention. Taub's assistant, John Frederic Kunz, 26, was acquitted of all charges.
Judge Klavan, delivering his ruling to a courtroom packed with almost 100 people, including a large number of reporters and animal lovers, said that Taub, 50, did not provide care to six primates that were found to be suffering from lesions and scar tissue on their arms and hands.
At the same time, Klavan threw out 11 other cruelty charges, saying that the 11 monkeys cited in those charges were not shown to have suffered any pain or cruelty.
"I don't intend to make a hero or saint of anyone," Klavan said. "On the other hand, I do not intend to tar anyone needlessly."
Taub said he would appeal and issued a bitter attack on opponents of animal research. "My trial on animal cruelty charges raises an issue larger than the violation of a Maryland statute," he said. "This issue is the right of legitimate scientists to practice the principles of free inquiry. I believe that what has happened to me can happen to other scientists.
"By manipulation of the facts, the media, and the law, a small group of individuals intent on banning animal research has closed my lab and damaged my work," he said, adding: "What has happened to my work harks back to the Middle Ages, and to the period of religious inquisition when scientists were burned at the stake."
Under Maryland law a person can be guilty of cruelty if he fails to provide animals with sufficient food, space, air, water, shelter or veterinary care. State prosecutors had contended that Taub was guilty of failing to provide all those things for the 17 monkeys that were seized from the laboratory by Montgomery County police on Sept. 11.
Prosecutors had based their case mainly on the lack of veterinary care for the 17 primates, and assistant state's attorney Roger Galvin produced photographs and several expert veterinarians to prove that some monkeys had been left with unbandaged and untreated open wounds.
According to the testimony, the six monkeys for which Taub was convicted had developed massive scar tissue, and the wounds were open to infection.
As part of Taub's research, the spinal reflexes of the monkeys were abolished by surgery and the monkeys' central nervous systems were then tested to see how well they recovered from that deliberate damage. According to researchers, the results of the monkey studies are used in the treatment of human stroke victims.
"The monkeys received no veterinary care," Galvin said. "Regular visits are necessary for vets to take a look at the animals." But Taub's lawyer, Edgar H. Brenner, said that the monkeys were "remarkably healthy animals."
A key witness in the case was Alex Pacheco, 23, a Georgetown University student and head of an animal rights group called People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Pacheco had entered Taub's laboratory undercover in May as a volunteer worker and, with a hidden camera, took pictures of the lab, of monkey cages with bare wire protruding, and of primates with open sores and fingers that had been bitten to stubs.
After the verdict, Pacheco's group issued a prepared statement that called the convictions "a landmark victory in the struggle for animal rights and the ethical treatment of animals: the first time in the history of the U.S. that an animal research facility has been penetrated, internal conditions exposed, and a successful prosecution accomplished."